There is no doubt at all that there was much popular opposition to the practice of dissection in the Middle Ages; that has existed at all times in the world’s history. It was very pronounced among the old Pagans in Rome as well as in Greece, and it prevented anatomical study to a very great degree. It continued to exist in modern times until almost the present generation. Indeed, it has not yet entirely disappeared, as any physician who has tried to secure autopsies on interesting cases knows very well. The New York Academy of Medicine is only a little over a half century old, and yet nearly every one of its early presidents had thrilling experiences in body-snatching as a young man, because no proper provision for the supplying of anatomical material had as yet been made by law, and bodies had to be obtained. The feeling of objection to having the bodies of friends anatomized is natural and not due to religion. It exists quite as strongly among the ignorant who have no religion as among the religiously inclined. It has not disappeared among the educated classes of our own time, religious or irreligious. If this is borne in mind, the history of the development of anatomy will be easier to understand.

James J. Walsh, The Popes and Science (1908)


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